Windswept, Mary Ellen Chase
This book was on the 1941 list at #10. This year it was at #6. You can read my comments on it at Books Read From 1941, Part Two, posted on February 18, 2006.
The Robe, Lloyd C Douglas, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942, 556 pp
I read this book when I was younger, possibly college age, but only vaguely remembered it. Here it is at #7 on the list for 1942. It is fairly well written but a little too obviously a Christian polemic disguised as an adventure/love story. A Roman soldier comes by the robe that Jesus wore on his way to Calvary and it has an inexplicable power which leads the soldier to become a Christian. At times the story moved well, at other times it dragged and the dialogue was only mediocre.
Similar to other books of this time, it is a call to peace, to goodwill and a picture of the destructive results of power-mad imperialist rulers. For that, I applaud Douglas.
The Sun Is My Undoing, Marguerite Steen.
This one was also on the 1941 list at #4. In 1942 it came in at #8. I wrote about it in Books Read From 1941, Part One on February 18, 2006.
King's Row; Henry Bellamann; Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc; 1940, 674 pp
At #9 on the bestseller list of 1942, this was a big favorite of the year for me. King's Row is a town somewhere in the southern midwest. The book is long, it is completely gripping, the characters are real and get into your head. Parris Mitchell comes of age in the novel. He is raised by his grandmother, an independent, European woman. He becomes a doctor and an early type of psychiatrist, though Bellamann never uses that term. Parris suffers many loses, but has great teachers. He is a loyal friend, an honorable person (what I would call a fine human being) and influences many lives for the better.
Also running through the book is the concept of how a town takes on a life apart from the lives of its individual residents and this group life is powerful, carries its own history and is hard to kill. Parris is one of those heros I have found so often in the literature of the 1940s. I find these characters so admirable and in such short supply in today's world. I wonder if such heros really lived and breathed in those days or were only an ideal found in fiction.
The Keys of the Kingdom, A J Cronin
One last holdover from 1941, this year at #10, down from #1 in 1941. This will be the last year that so many books stayed on the bestseller list from one year until the next, because by the end of the 1940s, the book business was changing along with everything else. You can find my comments on this one in Books Read From 1941, Part One posted on February 18, 2006.
In my next post I will take up several of the other books I read from 1942, though they were not necessarily bestsellers.